Earlier this month, the Province of Ontario proposed changes to the four provincial plans that shape how land is used in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan. They’re gathering feedback from the public on all their recommended changes to help protect green spaces and farmland.
One of the key changes proposed is an increase in the minimum Intensification Rate from 40% to 60%, to encourage growth in central areas and reduce suburban sprawl. “Intensification” may sound unfriendly but really it’s just re-using space that we already have. We’ve been building on land in York Region for many decades and our population continues to grow, so when a building comes to the end of its life, there’s a good chance the next building on that land will need to serve more people – whether for housing, business or entertainment.
For example, if a one-level plaza has 10 businesses, when it’s time to rebuild it might be replaced with a five-story building with 15 retail and restaurants on the ground level and 15 apartments above. Because there are more business and residential units than there were before, this contributes to an increased Intensification Rate in the area.
By building in place, adding five business units and 15 residential units to this property instead of building 10-20 detached subdivision houses elsewhere, an acre of green space could be saved. If this new development hosts 80 or more residents and jobs per hectare [2.5 acres], then it also helps support frequent transit service [like a Viva rapidway!].
One proposed change from the Province is to require zoning along transit corridors that supports a higher population and walkable communities. This is important to keep the relationship between people and transit on track. Transit systems need lots of people to jump on board, and people living in downtown areas need the option of transit.
By continuing to build in place, our biggest towns and cities will have everything on their doorstep, and green space nearby. Doesn’t that sound like the best of both worlds?